The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) unleashed 37 recommendations at the December Council meeting concerning the future of College governance. These recommendations stemmed from an external review conducted in the fall of 2019. OSSTF/FEESO has concerns with many of the specific recommendations, as well as with the timing, methodology and assumptions underlying the Report.
Although it was claimed that stakeholder engagement was central to this review, it is clear that there was limited input sought on key governance issues, calling into question the report’s validity. Stakeholder engagement involved 89/15,775 members of the public; 255/8,000 members of the College; and only 11/36 key external stakeholders, including OSSTF/FEESO. Many of the examples in the report come from members of Council and senior staff. In a nutshell, the findings are statistically insignificant and are based on little empirical evidence.
Some of the most concerning recommendations include reducing the size of Council and eliminating both the current majority of teacher members on Council and the democratic election process for selecting these professional members. If the recommendations pass, Council would be reduced to 14 members: seven professional members appointed by Council, and seven public members appointed by the Government. Currently, Council is made up of 37 members: 23 of whom are democratically elected. All of the appointments in the proposed model would be made by a new, all-powerful Governance and Nominations Committee made up of a majority of appointed, public members. This move would concentrate control of the Council in the hands of a small number of government-appointed members under the guidance of the Registrar. A system where teacher members are in the minority effectively takes the “self” out of self-regulation.
Other recommendations would see the role of Chair reduced to part-time status, the elimination of the Vice-Chair, revolving two-year terms for Councillors, and one-year Committee Chair positions. These changes would limit the time a Councillor or Chair has to become familiar with their roles, and shorter terms may encourage Councillors to tow-the-line if they hope to be re-appointed. Limiting strong, experienced, knowledgeable, professional membership on Council will consolidate power and place decision-making in the hands of senior staff and the Governance and Nominations Committee. A full-time Chair, a College Member, should continue to be the voice the College, not the Registrar.
If the recommendations pass and are adopted by the Ford Government, the College will be renamed “The Ontario Teachers Regulatory Authority.” The rationale includes the assertion that the College of Teachers” implies a representative (“of teachers”) role and contributes to the sense that its priority is to protect and advance the profession, rather than students. It is also argued that while other regulated profession governing bodies in Ontario have traditionally been called “College”, this is even more problematic for the teaching profession, whose members also still refer to an “Ontario Teachers College,” a pedagogical institution. This rationale for a new name does not hold up to scrutiny. Most professional bodies in this province are colleges, and few are confused about where their members went to school. Various members within OSSTF/FEESO belong to a total of nine different self-regulating bodies, all of which are “Colleges.” How many millions would be spent rebranding, reprinting, and advertising to make such a change? Some might argue that calling the OCT a regulatory authority would be a more transparent description of current practices at the College, with its already over-centralized power structure a widely-held sense on the part of Councillors that they should toe the line or risk not making it onto the roster in the future.
Nothing compels Council on February 28–March 1 to approve all of the recommendations, which are based on flawed data-collection and analysis. Their decisions will be forwarded to the government as they resume debate on Bill 48.
Registration for the February 28/March 1 OCT Council Meeting can be found here.